By Rachel Pressley
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries implemented a controversial proposal to expand black bear hunting in order to reduce the population in seven of the 22 Bear Management Zones in western Virginia. The change is meant to limit the impact of bear behavior on humans.
At the board meeting on May 24, the agency finalized changes for the next two hunting and trapping seasons.
A three-day open early season was added to 37 counties during the week before the statewide archery season. The start date of bear hound training season was changed to Aug. 1. An additional week of muzzleloading in 34 counties was not approved as it had previously caused a 14 percent decrease in the bear population within five years.
The wildlife agency’s Black Bear Management Plan is based on public input, the bear’s role in the ecosystem, human-bear interactions and bear-related attraction and tourism.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a hospital for native wildlife, opposed the reduction proposal. Instead, the organization advocated for lessening human-bear interaction through public education about how to prevent attracting bears, potentially by managing trash responsibly.
For more information, visit virginiabearhunters.org/news.php.